A 2015 TIME magazine cover titled “Black Lives Matter,” written in bold white print was the inspiration behind Larry Winston Collin’s, “They That Matter” exhibit now showcased at the Hiestand Galleries, 401 S. Maple Ave, Oxford.
The bottom of the cover has two photos; One depicts an African-American man running, and the other a white police officer firing shots at the man.
The article concerns the shooting of African-American men and women by police in the United States. Collins, an associate professor of art at Miami University, said he was affected by the stories he read, and believed that the stories of these men and women need to be recognized.
In the 1990’s, Collins created a similar exhibition, “All For The Cause,” that included 33 portraits of individuals who died during the Civil Rights Movement. Collins saw a similarity between victims, and wanted to honor each person’s life to show the humanity and the importance of why the victims mattered.
“They That Matter” brings light to racism and injustice, said Ann Taulbee, director of the Hiestand Galleries.
“When you’re in the gallery seeing the work, it really does open up a wide range of emotions for any viewer, no matter where they come from in regards to what the work does,” she said.
In “They That Matter,” Collins said he wanted to portray each piece of art as a shrine surrounding the close up shot of the victim’s face. A shrine is a holy or sacred place, where Collins used different materials such as frame pieces, bottle caps and metal shapes. Ultimately, Collins wanted the portrait to be the main focus.
“In order to honor them, I thought about silver and gold and giving them some type of framework that’s going to focus on who they are,” Collins said. “The frames are very symmetrical, so the portrait becomes the focal point. The frame just enhances who they are.”
The exhibit has 21 portraits on the walls of the gallery. Some honor Pamela Turner, killed in Texas earlier this year, and Sam Dubose, killed in Cincinnati in 2015.
The most recent portrait Collins created was of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot in Florida in 2012.
In addition to the bright silver and gold colors, Collins added cut up pieces of Skittles wrappers, which was one of the items Martin was carrying before he was killed.
Collins said he believes this exhibition is not only important to students at the university, but also to anyone in the community.
“I think it’s a good avenue for everybody to see that this is available here in our department,” Collins said. “This is an important exhibition to see.”
The “They That Matter” gallery is now open and free for the public, 9 a.m. - midnight., Monday through Friday, starting on October 28. The exhibit runs through Nov. 21.